Combine gorgeous weather, unbelievably hospitable friends and a willingness to look touristy without feeling self-conscious, and you get a great first day of a holiday.
Lunch was by the river, on Trinity College members’ only grass courtesy of Kaifeng and Vikram. Relieved at avoiding the plebs, we of course engaged in highly cultured ruminations such as how birds reproduce. (eg. Luke, scrutinizing passing ducks, “But I don’t see anything sticking out anywhere!”).
Punting followed, unsurprisingly, with the punt starting in the capable hands of Kaifeng, then passing into the considerably less skilled but enthusiastic grasp of Luke (this part is mostly a blur, but I seem to remember a lot of “BRACE! BRACE!”) and finally getting into my admittedly least competent custodianship. Getting us moving was okay. I could do that. It was just maintaining any one direction that didn’t involve the banks, other boats or going backwards that was the problem.
Kaifeng then left for Brighton with some friends, leaving us his keys with the naive and oft-regretted instructions to “make ourselves at home”, and we biked with Paul to Grantchester, where we sat in deckchairs among flowering trees at The Orchard and had tea and scones and clotted cream and jam, and a theological debate.
I was charmed, not just by the immediate appeal of the place but also by its past as a haven for the Grantchester Group (Rupert Brooke, E.M. Forster, Virginia Woolf, Bertrand Russell, Augustus John, Maynard Keynes, Ludwig Wittgenstein). We went into the dinky little Rupert Brooke museum, and I felt a sudden affection for Bloomsbury, home to me in London these past two years, and home to the Bloomsbury Group (Virginia Woolf and Keynes were members of this too) eighty or so years ago. Most of the time, the area’s past as a place where great minds lived and worked is somewhat less on my mind than the fact that I’m half an hour late for an hour-long lecture, and I sprint around, oblivious.
But sometimes, it hits me. Charles Darwin lived down the road from where I live now, Keynes nearby at Gordon Square, George Bernard Shaw, fleetingly, at Fitzroy Square. When I try to list things I came here for, this is one of them, as remote and superficial and meaningless as the connection may be..